Is Robovan the next step in robot deliveries?

robovanI’ve written a few times recently about the kind of land-based drones being deployed by companies such as Starship Technologies.  The devices are interesting in that they attempt to improve the last mile of the delivery process, and to that end, the company has recently teamed up with SwissPost to run trials on that very issue.

Of course, to get to the final mile, the robots have to be deployed from somewhere.  That could be a warehouse style facility, or it could be something altogether more flexible.  That’s the proposal muted by a partnership between Starship and Mercedes-Benz.

Robovans

They’re proposing a fleet of so called ‘Robovans’ that will provide a mobile hub for the delivery robots.  Each van will house eight delivery robots, and will drive through towns until they reach a suitable location for each bot to go about their delivery.

Starship Technologies has solved the last mile problem by introducing sidewalk delivery robots. However, vans are best suited to bring goods to the local area from businesses and distribution centers. When the two transportation methods converge into one, the outcome is the most efficient, cost effective and convenient local delivery method in the world, said Ahti Heinla, CEO of Starship Technologies.

The bots will be loaded up with the suitable items from the van itself using a special racking system that will allow up to 400 packages to be delivered in any nine hour shift.

The belief is that this will be a much more effective use of the drivers time, whilst also delivering considerable CO2 and congestion benefits by reducing the amount of driving required by each van.

“At Mercedes-Benz Vans we are constantly seeking for innovations to improve the efficiency for our customers and actively supporting their businesses. In Starship we found an innovative and creative partner to dramatically improve the way of transportation for the last mile”, said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.  “We see a huge potential for robotic delivery systems in the future and by combining our vans and the robots – we call it the mothership concept.  With this we are able to increase the efficiency of delivery by an order of magnitude. Working together is like having best of both worlds – the power of a leading van manufacturer combined with the agility and spirit of a startup”.

It’s an interesting project and with delivery robots growing in popularity one that will be well worth keeping an eye on.  Check out the video below to learn more about the partnership.

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